Modern touch to classic art


THE giant said in English with a northern Malay accent: “Ho (How) do you do?” 

Etong the perut buncit (beer barrel) man said to his translator, a dog-headed figure: “Ha-pa dia cakap? (What did he say?)” 

The figures retain traditional elements thoughthere are touches of modernity.

“You makan nasi dengan tau yu (You eat rice with soya sauce),” translated Dog Head. 

Whack! The giant hit Etong. 

Adoi! Hang cakap betoi ke tak? (Ouch! Are you translating correctly for me?)” complained Etong. 

(From left) Thegiant, Etong,Dog Head, awoman and aman having aconcersationduring theperformance.

Etong, Dog Head and the giant are all shadow puppets that left their audience in stitches with their lame lines at a recent wayang kulit gedek performance at Universiti Sains Malaysia. 

The slapstick humour seemed to go down well with the university students who attended the show. 

Pak Majid showing the audience his skills as a tok dalang.

Wayang kulit gedek or simply wayang gedek is a form of shadow play practised by the Thai communities of Kedah and Perlis with dialogue that features the Kedah Malay dialect with bits of Thai. 

The tok dalang (puppeteer) for the performance was Abdul Majid Mohd Noh who prefers to improvise lines about everyday modern life rather than use traditional stories. 

Through a video projection screened real-time backstage, the audience was able to see Pak Majid, 56, single-handedly tackling all the characters and doing the different voices. 

In an interview after the show, Pak Majid revealed that he only “berani main” (dare to play) after 16 years of following his father, a tok dalang, around on his shows.  

The musicianshelp theperformancealong with theirtraditionalinstruments.

His father falling ill one night opened the way for Pak Majid, then 35, to kick-start his career. 

“Before that, I would help to make the puppets, play the musical instruments and so on,” he said

Wayang gedek utilises five traditional music instruments – gedombak, serunai, canang, gedok and gong. A tambourine is now also used.  

For the sharp sounds when Etong gets hit or bumps into a tiger with his expansive tummy, Pak Majid hits his thigh with a wooden clapper-like device. 

“Last time, wayang kulit was limited to traditional stories. But takda lawak dalam tu (such stories are not funny) so now I make up dialogue about everyday life,” he explained. 

The Wayang Kulit Seri Asun group was formed in 1970 by his father. Pak Majid and his musicians have performed in Germany, Indonesia and Bangkok.  

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